Power Rangers Review

Power Rangers movie posterSynopsis
When five teenagers find mysterious coins that grant them superhuman strength, they learn about about a powerful evil that will consume the world. They must figure out how to work together as a team or risk the destruction of the Earth.

Review
Growing up as a young boy in the 90s, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were huge for me. On the playground, it was always a debate on who got to play the Red Ranger, and later the Green Ranger, during recess. My best friend and I would fight hordes of imaginary Putties (the generic villainous foot soldiers) for hours on end. You might say that the biggest reason I went to see this movie was to relive that piece of my childhood. Out of all the old franchises that are once again seeing the light of day, leaving the theater after watching Power Rangers left me with the largest nostalgia high I’ve had in a very long time.

Say what you will about the television version of the Power Rangers, one thing it has always been extremely good at is having a diverse cast. This latest movie version maintains that diversity and even expands to be more than ethnic diversity, with an autistic and a lesbian rangers. I’m glad to see that a franchise that is all about teamwork and friendship, and is geared more towards a younger audiences embraces such inclusion.

To be honest, I never considered Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to be about superheroes. This mostly because that the first thing that comes to mind are characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine, or Batman. For all intents and purposes, the Power Rangers are superheroes, and this film treats them as such. The Rangers don’t fully utilize their abilities until the final battle with Rita. But more than that, it takes its time to develop the characters. Power Rangers does a good job of building each of the five main characters. By the time they finally come together as a team, you have a good grasp of who the characters are yourself.

The television version of Power Rangers is considerably campy. Luckily, this movie never goes quite that absurd. Several years ago, there was an exceedingly gritty version of the Power Rangers on YouTube that was very much R-rated. This movie never gets anywhere near that extreme. This film is a middle between the two of them, maybe leaning a little bit closer to the television version. It does have hints of the silliness of the television show but it almost feel like it is there as a callback to the show since that’s just how the show is.

Going into the film, I wasn’t sure about how I felt about Elizabeth Banks as Rita. I’ve never much pictured her as the cackling-villain type. However, she wasn’t half-bad at the part. Banks totally embraced the character of Rita Repulsa and gave a performance that was part terrifying and part reminiscent of the 90s version of the villain. Her unique take on Rita fit well into the movie’s universe and I can’t wait to see if she gets to revisit the character.

I thought Power Rangers was GREAT πŸ˜€ The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was such a big part of my childhood that I would not miss this film in theaters. I’ll admit that it wasn’t perfect but it also had no right being as entertaining as it was. Some people might find it uneven in places (which it was) or not care much for the characters. As for me, I had two hours of pure fun and joy and a smile on my face almost the entire time and dammit if that isn’t enough for me!

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Dean Israelite – Director
John Gatins – Screenplay
Matt Sazama – Story
Burk Sharpless – Story
Michele Mulroney – Story
Kieran Mulroney – Story
Brian Tyler – Composer

Dacre Montgomery – Jason (Red Ranger)
Naomi Scott – Kimberly (Pink Ranger)
RJ Cyler – Billy (Blue Ranger)
Ludi Lin – Zack (Black Ranger)
Becky G. – Trini (Yellow Ranger)
Elizabeth Banks – Rita Repulsa
Bryan Cranston – Zordon
Bill Hader – Alpha 5 (voice)

Logan Review

Logan movie posterSynopsis
In 2029, mutant-kind is on the brink of extinction.Β  An aged Logan (Hugh Jackman) is hiding in Mexico with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant).Β  When a woman finds Logan and asks for his help to transport her daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), to a supposed mutant haven known as Eden, Logan and Charles set out for the US-Canada border while protecting Laura from Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his band of Reavers.

Review
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men is one of those castings that was perfect.Β  Over the years, he has put his heart and soul into the role and has come to embody the character. It’s one of those actor/role combinations that I can’t imagine any other way.Β  Now, after 17 years and nine films, Jackman retracts the claws for good and hangs up the cowl, but not before giving the best performance of the character yet.

The X-Men movies have all fallen victim to having too many characters to juggle.Β  Some have adapted and made it work well (X-2: X-Men United), others have not (X-Men: Apocalypse). Even the other Wolverine movies have felt bloating with the amount of support characters they have tried to include.Β  Logan, on the other hand, keeps the focus very much on Logan, Charles, and Laura. There is a reason it is called β€œLogan” and not something like Wolverine 3.Β  The character moments are what drive the story forward.Β  The little interactions between Logan and Charles, who has become somewhat of a father-figure to Logan, and Logan and Laura, who in essence has become his daughter, feel intimate and authentic.Β  There are other characters as well but they are antagonists whose purpose is to move the story forward.

Logan is the most mature and darkest of not just any X-Man movie but superhero movies in general.Β  I don’t just mean β€œmature” with the violence but how it approaches the characters as well.Β  As I mentioned before, this story is all about Logan, Charles, and Laura as a bizarre, mutant family.Β  Most superhero movies tell a story around the characters’ superpowers. This movie, on the other hand, tell a story about characters who happen to have superpowers.Β  This makes it unlike any superhero that has come before.

After the success of Deadpool, Fox decided to go with an R-rating for Logan, which is something the character has been missing all these years. Wolverine has always been an aggressive, violent character and his cinematic version has always felt to me that he has been held back by the PG-13 rating.Β  Now, the character can really let loose.Β  Logan takes full advantage of the R-rating, showing even that an aged Logan is something to be feared.Β  This film would not have worked if it was restrained by a lower rating.Β  Laura is a younger, more rough-around-the-edges Wolverine, whose pure savageness needed to be unfiltered.

This film is a lot longer than it feels.Β  With a runtime of over two and a half hours, it just flew by.Β  I felt invested in the characters and the story.Β  It had its action moments and its character moments. It was never moving too fast nor did it ever feel like it was dragging.Β  There was a perfect balance between the loud action sequences and the quieter character moments.

I thought Logan was GREAT πŸ˜€ You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has come to embody a character the way Hugh Jackman has become Wolverine.Β  As a farewell performance for the character, Jackman gives the best performance of the character to date.Β  A tight familial dynamic between Logan, Charles, and Laura and intense and exciting action scenes make Logan not just good Wolverine movie but a great movie in general.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Mangold – Director / Story / Screenplay
Scott Frank – Screenplay
Michael Green – Screenplay
Marco Beltrami – Composer

Hugh Jackman – Logan
Patrick Stewart – Charles Xavier
Dafne Keen – Laura Keen
Boyd Holbrook – Donald Pierce
Stephen Merchant – Caliban
Elizabeth Rodriguez – Gabriela
Richard E. Grant – Dr. Zander Rice
Eriq La Salle – Will Munson
Elise Neal – Kathryn Munson
Quincy Fouse – Nate Munson

Wild Wild West Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Wild Wild West movie posterSynopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up. Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety. Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy. Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial β€œI’m the bad guy” sign. Loveless’ invention to bring the β€œUS government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula. Everything about this movie screams β€œSaturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older. Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like. Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together. This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too. The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance. Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role. It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD πŸ™‚ It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that. Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves. I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General β€œBloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 movie posterSynopsis
After seeing John Wick (Keanu Reeves) come out of retirement, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) returns to John to collect a debt. When Wick fulfills his contract, D’Antonio puts a bounty on his head. Wick must use all of his resources to get through the assassins between him and D’Antonio in order to get justice for D’Antonio’s betrayal.

Review
I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about a sequel to John Wick, a surprise hit from 2014. I felt the story wrapped up well and didn’t really need a follow-up. I was afraid that we would get too much of a good thing and an awesome character like John Wick would be run into the ground trying to squeeze as much money out of him as the studio possibly could. After the film was done I took a sigh of relief, John Wick: Chapter 2 is not the cash-in I was scared it would be.

One pitfall that many sequels fall into, particularly an action sequel such as this, is that it tries to make it as similar as the film(s) before as possible. In doing so, it does not bring anything new to the franchise and feels stale. John Wick: Chapter 2 keeps the core of John Wick but at the same time, brings a fresh new experience. It does everything a sequel should: raise the stakes, flesh out the character, and expand the franchise’s universe. There are clear similarities, as there should be, but this is not a carbon copy of the last movie. This feels like a whole new experience instead of a simple rehash of the last film.

On that note, this movie also feels like a natural progression of John Wick’s story. The opening action-packed scene cleans up the threads from last film then jumps right into the new stuff. We learn more about Wick’s character, his past, and the assassin world.

Oh my goodness do we learn about the secret assassin world! One of my favorite parts about John Wick was the Continental Hotel and learning about this underground society of assassins that has their own sanctuary, currency, and code of conduct. That film only touches the tip of the assassin iceberg. This film greatly expands on that. A ton of cool and interesting information is revealed and I don’t want to give any of it away, I want you to learn it for yourself. Even though a lot of information is revealed, there is clearly much more to the secret society yet to be given.

Another great aspect from John Wick that I enjoyed very much was the choreography during the action scenes. They were vibrant and exciting. That same energy returns but larger and with more intensity. Director Chad Stahelski has a history as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Using his experience, the action sequences are very crisp and well choreographed. The series’ signature β€œgun-fu” style of action is exhilarating to watch.

I mentioned in my review of John Wick that I really enjoyed Stahelski’s directing because unlike most modern action movies, it didn’t use much shaky-cam. Instead, it felt like classic 1980s action movies with long shots, maintaining a focus on the action going on on-screen. John Wick: Chapter 2, to no surprise, does the same thing. Even when in tight spaces, such as catacomb tunnels or a subway station, the camera still manages to keep all the important characters and action in focus. This leads to some of the best action cinematography I’ve seen in a while. Even during the non-action scenes, sweeping shots and vibrant colors make for a unique, visceral experience.

The standout performance from the last film was Keanu Reeves as the titular character. He easily brought Wick’s incredible skills to life but still felt vulnerable as the aged hitman. He brings back that same vulnerability and it still works. Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Ruby Rose do a great job as Wick’s antagonists, feeling like much more of a challenge to Wick than the Russian mobsters of the last film. The reunion of Neo and Morpheus with the appearance of Lawrence Fishburne was fun to watch. I expected a bigger role for Fishburne, which was more of a cameo than a significant role. Hopefully he will have a bigger role in the future. Maybe they’ll even bring in Carrie-Anne Moss for a reunion of The Matrix.

I thought John Wick: Chapter 2 was GREAT πŸ˜€ It does everything expected of a sequel, creating bigger challenges for John Wick and building his character. Chad Stahelski proves he has a real knack for action scenes, using spectacular cinematography to create some of the best action scenes in recent memory. I went into this movie unsure if I wanted a second John Wick film but I left greatly looking forward to a third.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chad Stahelski – Director
Derek Kolstad – Writer
Tyler Bates – Composer
Joel J. Richard – Composer

Keanu Reeves – John Wick
Riccardo Scamarcio – Santino D’Antonio
Ian McShane – Winston
Ruby Rose – Ares
Common – Cassian
Claudia Gerini – Gianna D’Antonio
Lance Reddick – Charon
Laurence Fishburn – Bowery King
Tobias Segal – Earl
John Leguizamo – Aurelio
Thomas Sadoski – Jimmy
Peter Serafinowicz – Sommelier
Luca Mosca – Italian Tailor
Peter Stormare – Abram

The Lego Batman Movie Review

The LEGO Batman Movie movie posterSynopsis
Batman (Will Arnett (voice)) is the hero of Gotham City and has everything he could want except for one thing: a family. When the Joker (Zach Galifianakis (voice)) enacts a his largest, most villainous plan yet, Batman must lean to work with a team to stop the Joker’s diabolical scheme.

Review
I am a huge, huge fan of The Lego Movie. It had all the right elements to make it fun for both the younger and older audiences. Also being a superhero fan, I went into the theater hoping that I would see that cleverness and self-awareness return but pointed at the superhero genre that has exploded over the last 10-15 years. The Lego Batman Movie may not hit the high that The Lego Movie did, but it sure comes close.

Batman has had a very wild and varied history, a fact the movie brings up several times. Although this is wrapped in the aesthetic of a children’s toy, I would qualify this a good Batman movie. It looks at the Dark Knight from a different perspective, but it keeps much of what makes Batman Batman. Although this is a very different kind of Batman (arrogant, obnoxious, self-centered), he still feels like Batman. This should please long-time fans of the character while still not being too inclusive for those who aren’t as familiar with the character.

The photo-realistic look from The Lego Movie was astonishing and one of the things I liked best about that film. There is not much difference in the look and feel of between that and this film and that’s perfectly fine with me. It still looks like real Lego bricks and figures on the screen. Nothing is not made out of Legos. I can’t get enough of it!

So far, these theatrical Lego movies have brought together the perfect voice casts. Will Arnett returns as Batman and kills it. Michael Cera, Arnett’s co-star on Arrested Development, fantastically plays the innocent Dick Grayson. His Grayson is much younger than any Robin seen in any Batman film so far and Cera gleefully brings a childlike naivety to the role. Other stars of note are Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, the no-stranger-to-superheroes Rosario Dawson as Barbra Gordon, and Zach Galifianakis, who is clearly having too much fun as the Joker.

Going into a Lego movie like this, you should expect some zany action sequences. With everything being composed of Legos, the possibilities are endless and this film takes full advantage of that. Every scene is explosive, insane, and batshit crazy. The constant intensity keeps the story moving quickly. However, it still takes the time to have the softer moments. One thing’s for sure, you won’t get bored during this movie.

Although this is an animated film that might be geared more towards a younger audience, this movie incorporates enough to appeal to many ages and groups. There are plenty of references to previous Batmans (Batmen?), such asΒ the recent Ben Affleck Batman, Christopher Nolan’s version of the Dark Knight, and even β€œthat weird one in 1966.”  There are also references to other superhero properties, like Suicide Squad, which are sure to please comic fans, as well as other franchises like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings to hit a wider audience. If you’re a little bit older, there are jokes and pop-culture references that you’ll catch. Then the colorful action will surely keep the attention of the young ones.

I thought The Lego Batman Movie was GOOD πŸ™‚ The goofiness and cleverness that made The Lego Movie so much fun returns. Although this Batman may be very different than any Batman seen so far, I had a blast as a fan of the character. Whether you are a lifelong fan of Batman like myself or just know who he is, chances are you will find something to enjoy in this film and end up having a good time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chris McKay – Director
Seth Grahame-Smith – Story / Screenplay
Chris McKenna – Screenplay
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Jared Stern – Screenplay
John Whittington – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer

Will Arnett – Batman / Bruce Wayne (voice)
Michael Cera – Robin / Dick Grayson (voice)
Ralph Fiennes – Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Rosario Dawson – Batgirl / Barbara Gordon (voice)
Hector Elizondo – Jim Gordon (voice)
Zach Galifianakis – Joker (voice)
Jenny Slate – Harley Quinn (voice)
Jason Mantzoukas – Scarecrow (voice)
Conan O’Brien – The Riddler (voice)
Doug Benson – Bane (voice)
Billy Dee Williams – Two-Face (voice)
Zoe Kravitz – Catwoman (voice)
Eddie Izzard – Voldemort (voice)
Seth Green – King Kong (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Sauron (voice)

Tango & Cash Review

Tango & Cash movie posterSynopsis
Raymond Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) are Los Angeles’ two top cops. When they are convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, they must work together to clear their names.

Review
Sylvester Stallone and Curt Russell are two of the biggest action stars from the 1980s. It was only a matter of time before they would team-up for their own film. Tango & Cash takes the best of cheesy 80s action flicks, mixes them together and turns it up to 11.

What is the best way to get a feel for the main characters? Put them in a chase scene of course! Both Stallone and Russell get their own individual car chase scene to start off the film. This accomplishes two things: 1) it offers an exciting note to begin the film, grabbing the audience’s attention, and 2) shows how different the characters are. The exhilarating start is needed because the next few scenes are spent setting up the movie’s conflict and it isn’t for a little while before there is another action scene. More importantly, it showed how the characters contrasted, that they have two very different styles of doing their job as a police officer.

Like any buddy cop film, Tango & Cash lives or dies from the chemistry between the two lead actors. Stallone and Russell, even in 1989, are experienced action stars and they put that experience to good use. They are so much fun together that it’s a shame they have only made one film like this together. The way they hurl one-liners off each other is nothing short of amusing. Almost every scene had me smiling at the interactions between two of them, even drawing out a good chuckle every now and then.

Music isn’t normally something I have found to be too noteworthy in a cheesy action flick such as Tango & Cash, so I was surprised when this film’s soundtrack really stood out to me. It is very noticeably 80s and really captures the sound of that era. The movie’s theme in particular had me jamming out.

As I said, this film takes some of the best parts of 80s action movies and puts them all together. There is very clear inspiration from other movies, particularly Stallone’s and Russell’s other action films. As a result, Tango & Cash doesn’t offer any kind of experience you wouldn’t find in a dozen other action films. Thankfully, the team-up of Stallone and Russell at least keeps it fun, preventing it from becoming dull or stale.

I thought Tango & Cash was GOOD πŸ™‚ It has a lot in common with Sylvester Stallone’s and Kurt Russell’s other action films from the 1980s but the duo are so entertaining on screen that you forget about that and have fun anyway. You couldn’t ask for more from a simple popcorn flick.

Favorite Quote
Officer 1: Who in the fuck do you think you are!?
Officer 2: He thinks he’s Rambo.
Tango: Rambo is a pussy.

Trivia
Tango & Cash was released in US theaters on December 22, 1989, making it the last film theatrically released in the 1980s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Andrei Konchalovsky – Director
Randy Feldman – Writer
Harold Faltermeyer – Composer

Sylvester Stallone – Lt. Raymond Tango
Kurt Russell – Lt. Gabriel Cash
Teri Hatcher – Katherine ‘Kiki’ Tango
Jack Palance – Yves Perret
Brion James – Requin
James Alaimo – Lopez
Michael J. Pollard – Owen
Robert Z’Dar – Face
Edward Bunker – Capt. Holmes
Geoffrey Lewis – Capt. Schroeder
Michael Jeter – Skinner

If you are interested in participating in the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself, there is still time to join in. You can find all the information here.